Austral Aspirations: Nat Segal talks skiing in the Land Down Under

Australia is not often thought of as a backcountry skiing destination, but for freeskier Nat Segal, it is home, where she learned to ski and where she and her sister Anna will return this summer to film for the upcoming video project “Finding the Line.”

For the next installment of “Austral Aspirations,” we caught up with Nat to chat about her experience growing up skiing in the southern hemisphere. We wanted to hear more about what the backcountry scene is like and what her objectives are for the next few months. Here is what Nat had to say.


Nat makes her way down a ribbon for snow on Mt. Bogong, Australia. [Photo] Nick Parkinson

Backcountry Magazine: What was it like growing up skiing in Australia?

Nat Segal: I’m from Melbourne and my home mountain is Mt Buller, which is a three-hour drive from my home. My parents were members of a lodge and we would go up there and ski occasionally. I was really stoked that I was introduced to skiing at a young age in Australia, because down there it is definitely something that not everyone gets to do.

BCM: What was it that drew you to skiing in Europe and North America?

NS: In Australia, winter is not very consistent. Some years, true winter conditions don’t happen till very late in the season. The snow cover is inconsistent and the snow quality is variable. Sometimes there are really good years down in Australia and New Zealand, but sometimes not. The thing that really draws people from Australia to other locations like Canada and Japan or even a place like Salt Lake, is the snow and terrain.

The terrain in Australia is very different than in the Northern Hemisphere. In Australia, we really have rolling hills. It’s not like the 2,000-meter runs that you can find in Europe or the gnarly terrain you can find in Jackson Hole or even the playful terrain you have at Snowbird and Alta. You don’t really get pow in Australia. There are freak years, but mostly not.

That being said there is an awesome mountain community of snow-lovers at all of the resorts.


Nat skins along the Franz Josef Glacier, on the South Island of New Zealand. [Photo] Camilla Rutherford—

BCM: What is it like switching between northern and southern hemispheres every year?

NS: This is a conversation that I end up having quite a bit mainly because of what I am choosing to do in my life. It is really hard to pursue skiing as a career as an Australian. Unless you have a visa or a passport elsewhere, you really have to consistently come home. It can be really complicated. I spend so much money on travel—it is ridiculous.

I am working on a film project with my sister Anna, and one of the big things that allows us to be able to do this is having a support base that is stringed across the world, because we have friends in all these different countries. Trying to go back and forth is really hard. I am still trying to find the perfect situation where I can stay in the country I want to be in for a long period of time.

There are some pros to it as well though. People are always like, “Oh, you travel so much. You get to go to Australia, you get to go to Europe.” And I guess that is the choice I make. I sacrifice a lot so that I can have the freedom and funding to travel for skiing. It can be fun but it is definitely a struggle. I have to piece my life together every winter.

Nat shoots the gap. [Photo] Courtesy Nat Segal

Nat shoots the gap. [Photo] Courtesy Nat Segal

BCM: What are some of the things you have to deal with going back and forth from Australia to New Zealand for skiing?

NS: I can go to New Zealand at any point if I want to. I don’t need a visa, if I want to work, I just need to register for tax.

Nat and Anna Segal watch the sunset at their Mt Townsend campsite in the Kosciuszko National Park. [Photo] Teddy Laycock

Nat and Anna Segal watch the sunset at their Mt. Townsend campsite in the Kosciuszko National Park. [Photo] Teddy Laycock

BCM: What is your plan for this summer (austral winter)?

NS: I am going to be spending most of my winter in Australia. I am really excited to spend a week at Methven Heli Operations and then a week hosting a ski camp with a group called Mint Tours. Afterwards, I will be spending about ten days with some other skiers. Together we are going on other backcountry missions around the Christchurch area. There is one mountain that keeps popping up on my radar called Mt. Sibbald, which is around 1800 meters I think. We might also go onto the glaciers on the west coast. That area is really well known for having the most incredible views. You are on the glaciers at 2,500 meters and you have a view over the ocean and mountains.

After that I am headed back home, and Anna and I will be filming in the Australian backcountry for a whole month spending most of our time in the Main Range, which is part of the Kosciuszko National Park. We will be camping around Australia and checking out some areas that I have hiked in the summer. Some areas outside of Victoria—Mt. Bogong and Mt. Feathertop—those are the two main backcountry access zones in Alpine National Park. It is very beautiful and there are some steeper, longer lines that I have never actually been to so I am excited to check them out.

Nat arcs down the Franz Joseph Glacier on the west coast of the south island, NZ. [Photo] Camilla Rutherford

Nat arcs down the Franz Josef Glacier on the west coast of the South Island, NZ. [Photo] Camilla Rutherford—

BCM: What is the general skiing scene like in Australia?

NS: Skiers in Australia are very passionate. I don’t think you’re a real Australian skier unless you can handle a day or two of liquid snow. There are some people who know that you can ski in Australia, but you would be really amazed by the infrastructure there.

In the last few years a lot of funding has been invested in terrain parks, and as a result you’ll find a lot of freeskiers coming to Australia to train.  It’s funny because you go to places around Europe and you have the terrain but the infrastructure is nothing in comparison to what you would find in Australia. On top of that, the freeride and backcountry scene in Australia is growing. People have embraced ski touring and snow camping in a big way! It’s awesome to see so many people keen for backyard adventures—even in the worst conditions.

Read the article about Nat Segal’s upcoming film “Finding the Line” here.

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